Happiness (movie)

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Template:Infobox Movie

Happiness is a 1998 motion picture, written and directed by Todd Solondz that show the lives of three sisters and their families.

It stars Jane Adams, Elizabeth Adams, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ben Gazzara, Jared Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Louise Lasser, Jon Lovitz, Camryn Manheim, Rufus Read and Cynthia Stevenson. The films cast received the National Board of Review award for best ensemble performance.

Overview

Happiness is an episodic movie in the same line as Robert Altman's famous Short Cuts. The episodes show parts of the lives of three New Jersey sisters as well as their parents. It is a movie which breaks with "normal" Hollywood conventions at every opportunity.

This becomes first apparent in the opening sequence, where one of the sisters tells a suitor, who was just about to propose to her, that she simply detests him and finds him boring. There is no effort on the part of the filmmaker to give this a funny twist, or to manipulate the scene in any way to spare the viewer the embarrassment of the character being rejected. The audience is shown the entire sequence, where normal Hollywood convention would be content to show what is happening in general and then cut to another scene.

The rest of the movie is no less squeamish when it comes to showing where and how interpersonal relationships fail, how people get further and further away from happiness in their lives. There are some short glimpses of it, for example when one of the sisters sleeps with a Russian from her language class, who woos her with guitar playing and soppy words—only to steal her happiness in the next scene by literally, essentially, robbing her.

Another part does not shy away from presenting a scene in which a father admits to his son that he is a pedophile and assaulted one of the son's friends. This is not done in a voyeuristic way, however, as the audience can feel some sorrow for this criminal.

The tragic and sick is somewhat balanced by some funny points, though, sometimes with both in the same scene, such as the admission to murder while ordering dessert in the second half of the movie.

The altogether rather grim outlook on adult life with its complexities stops only for the last scene, which shows the only truly happy person in the movie —a teenage boy who has just ejaculated for the first time, and comes inside to tell his family, who are, of course, shocked.

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